Washington has spent millions of dollars helping Nigeria fight terrorists, but U.S. officials worry that Nigerian security forces are feeding the insurgency by committing atrocities of their own.
In its annual report last week on the worldwide status of human rights, the State Department asserted that abuses committed by Boko Haram and by Nigerian security forces have escalated over the past year.
Nigerian security forces were responsible for atrocities, including extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, arbitrary detention and widespread violence, the report said.
In one particularly brutal incident, Nigerian soldiers went on an apparent rampage in the northern town of Baga on April 16 and 17 after witnesses claimed that Boko Haram shot and killed a soldier with the Multinational Joint Task Force, composed of soldiers from Chad, Niger and Nigeria.
Nigerian soldiers indiscriminately fired on people and destroyed homes. A local official put the death toll at 228 and said as many as 4,000 homes had been burned. Human Rights Watch, citing community leaders, said 183 people had been killed and confirmed with the help of satellite images that 2,275 buildings had been destroyed.
The State Department official said that Washington’s “message to the Nigerians has been very clear: ‘To address the threat of Boko Haram you need to have a comprehensive approach, you need to think about the legitimate concerns of the people of northern Nigeria and you need to be making sure that your security personnel are following the human rights protocols that are necessary and protecting civilians.’”
“This is something we have been pretty vocal about,” the official said. “Obviously there is a security threat and the things that Boko Haram is doing are simply atrocious and that is irrefutable, but you need to be very careful how you respond and make sure that you aren’t making more insurgents than you are killing.”
Mr. Campbell said that the Nigerian government may need to alter its strategy for fighting Boko Haram. The government has been pursuing a counterterrorism approach to the insurrection in northern Nigeria, whereas it should be pursuing a counterinsurgency approach, he said.
-The Washington Post